Q: I would like to build a patio off the back of our house, but I'm concerned about disturbing a 100-year-old burr oak that currently occupies the space. The patio could extend around and to the side of the tree. I am concerned about covering up or compacting the tree roots and also about using an alkaline material like limestone that may leach over time and harm the tree. Can you suggest ways to save the tree while also getting a patio? – Jim, Chicago, Illinois

A: Roger Cook replies: Although a 100-year-old oak tree would have a vast and deep root system, I would hesitate to bury any roots and compromise the health of the tree. Also, the roots will eventually lift the patio. I suggest contouring the patio to leave space around the tree, or install a walk and push the patio away from the tree roots.

Instead of a patio, you could build a ground-level wood deck, where the only invasion of the root system would be the footings, which you could hopefully lay out to avoid the roots.
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